Mesr Desert

Central Iran

November 2019

From the midparts of the main line between Tehran and Yazd, I traveled northeast for 280km towards to the desert. My destination was Mesr Desert which is a part of Kavir desert that is the second biggest desert of Iran. (800km long) The biggest is Lut desert that is in the southern parts of great Central Iran plateau.

This was my second visit to a desert. My first visit was 1,5 years ago when I was in Jaisalmer, India. I was glad that I was going to be in the desert for more extended period of time now. As I proceeded into the heart of the plateau, the topography started to change. Transition became more and more visible as I passed the mountains that pop up partly from the earth. The vast plains and the dun groundcovers were welcoming me into the desert.

Then I arrived at the tiny little village Farahzad which is the furthest settlement located just at the starting point of Mesr desert, by the dunes. In the upcoming days I was going to stay in this remote village which consists not more than 12 residences and a couple of guesthouses.

My host here was Ali. His room was a part of a guesthouse (above) which was a typical example of desert architecture. In order to be protected from the harsh sand storms, all structures have closed facades on the outside. You enter through a porch into the inner court where all the spaces are linked to. We were also sharing the room with a visitor, a small desert mouse! He was extremely cute with his whitish grey feathers and enormous black eyes. His kangaroo like bounces were odd and so sweet at the same time.

Wandering around in Farahzad and the neighbour village Mesr I saw many structures the locals built. I really loved some details. (above) There is another traditional component in Iranian culture I want to mention about. You see it here in the desert and also in many places throughout the country. It is ‘Korsi’, a traditional item of furniture which is a type of low table you place at the center of your living area. Ember is put underneath this table. (They put heater in the cities) Blankets are thrown over the table. Then you put your feet and your lower body under the blanket. What a nice idea to warm your body at long winter nights.

On some parts of the walls, the sand was running off from the surface giving an aged look to the structures. That reminded me of impermenance, that nothing can stand the same against time. Great law of nature. I am living, feeling, listening, loving and dying at the same time.

My host Ali (above) is a biologist living and working here. He is an extraordinary person who left his former life behind and came to live in the desert. In each day we had fulfilling conversations about environment, fauna, the culture and traditions. It gave me so much idea about desert life when I heard about the challenges he faced during his adaptation times to the desert.

It was interesting to see these green lands for agriculture.(above) Although there is extreme heat and sand storms, the desert people found ways to cultivate some of their essential food. They planted some specific plants around the lands to protect them from the storms. For irrigation, they developed a sophisticated system of water-wells known as qanats. There are pomegranate trees around and the dates are so so sweet.

Like we see above on the right, there are some structures here and there that protect you from the strong sun in high temperatures.
There is a traditional way of cooking food in the desert. (above, left) In the morning time they dig a hole in the sand in which they put ember. Then they put the clay pot inside and close the top all with sand. All they long the food gets cooked slowly. After they come back from the desert the food is ready.

It was amazing to wake up to the desert, to walk and get lost in the dunes everyday. This vast views above are from the top of a dune that I went nearly each day. I was watching the immensity of the dunes on one side and on the other side there were rocky mountains lining up one after another. Absolute silence of the desert was my only company. All I could hear was the soft subtle breeze and the flies coming close to my ears.
Coming to the climate, flora and the fauna.. As temperature can reach up to 50 degress in summer, best time to come to this relatively harsh climate is from September to December. I was lucky to be here in November, the days were so good but the nights were already so cold. Vegetation in this hot and arid climate is quite poor. Only a few percent of the desert is covered with plants, little trees and bushes. The area consists of animals such as wolf, jackal, hyena, sand fox, sand cat, lizard, chameleon, lizards, snakes, scorpions, eagles and hawks.

One day we got on the jeep of Ali and went much deeper into the desert. Marching on in a high speed in the vastness of the desert was not only impressive but also so fun. The topography was partly changing, angular little hills were popping up from the earth. It was magnificent to give some breaks at some high points seeing countless dunes and some little canyons in front of us.

It was so surprising to see a water resource and a seasonal riverbed in the heart of the desert. Since the hot temperatures cause extreme evaporation, the surface of the ground was hyper salty. There are also some salt lakes in this region.

Most of the nights a big group of wild camels were coming by the village to drink from the water supply. Ahh what a scene! Having the moonlight as the only source that lightens the whole view, it was so fascinating to observe them in the darkness of the night. A group of 40-50 wild camels were approaching slowly slowly, then entering one by one into the area of the water that is surrounded by some primitive fences. The reason for the fences is to block and observe them for a while. There are Sarebans here, the cameleers who take care of the health and number of the wild camels. By this way they can check if there is any illegal hunting. They know the camels, all the family members, their characters and behaviours. Respect!

Some heavy storms cause sand hills reach up to 40m in height. Strong wind shapes the surfaces, forming trippy figures. Coming to this part of the planet, witnessing the deep silence of the desert, in wonderment, an inner voice was arising, asking; ‘Where am I?’ These days I was reading on the concept of Love in Sufism. It is reinforcing my insights. ‘The experiencer’ and ‘the one that is experienced’ was disappearing. Then there was only ‘the experience’. I am Love.

The spectacular sunrise, the dreamy sunset, the moonrise and the stars. . . I am totally with the cycles of nature. The night sky is magical, stars shine like diamonds. My hearts speaks out, saying for the first time; ‘I wanna write a blog!’

One night, at the fullmoon, we came across with a group of almost 40 wild camels that came to drink water. As if we were in a magnetic pull, we approached a little closer and a little closer and a little closer until we were just beside them. We bent down our heads, eyes down, presenting our respectful and friendly energy. Some of them were calm but the active and curious ones approached us. One of them smelled Ali for a while. Then they relaxed, you could see this through their body language.

After that I had the courage to rise my head up and look in the eye of the camel that was right in front of me. We were so close that I could hear his breath coming out from his nose. Then a mutual loving energy arised through our nonverbal communication. Time had stopped. The meaning I put upon the space and time, upon my body and identity dissolved. Looking each other in the eye, we both rest in the ground of Love. At that very moment I saw the reflection of the fullmoon in the eye of the camel. That exact moment was a break through into the divine light. It was a precious a-ha moment that would be staying with me thereafter.

The Author